A new Renaissance Era in the Middle East

By Adib Abdulmajid:

After decades of remarkable dictatorship and tyranny, including all sorts of persecution and oppression, the Middle East is witnessing a growing renaissance and pro-democracy movement. The reasons might differ, but the goals stay unified: Freedom, democracy, and a better means of life.

Democracy” is one of the concepts which didn’t exist in the memory of current generations in the Middle East. By surviving under the umbrella of traditions and social restrictions, besides political and dictatorial suppression, exhaustion found its way into some Middle Eastern societies – until the recent revolutionary movement calling for “Freedom”.

Following the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi on 17 December 2010, an intensive campaign of civil resistance began in Tunisia; a series of street demonstrations took place mainly precipitated by high unemployment, corruption, poor living conditions and a lack of freedom of speech. After inhuman actions by police and security forces, the Tunisian popular revolution resulted in scores of deaths and injuries. In his last official speech, in a moment of awareness and under popular pressure after 23 years of rule in Tunisia, Ben Ali stated: “No life-long presidency”. The protests led to the ousting of president Zine El Abdine Ben Ali 28 days later, on 14 January 2011, when he officially resigned after fleeing to Saudi Arabia.

The Tunisian protests inspired similar movements throughout the Arab world. The Egyptian revolution against the rule of Hosni Mubarak began as a campaign of non-violent civil resistance, featured as marches, labor strikes, a series of demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience. State of emergency laws, police brutality, lack of free elections, uncontrollable corruption, and economic issues were persuasive reasons for millions of Egyptian protestors from a variety of socio-economic and religious backgrounds to demand the overthrow of Mubarak’s regime. Despite being peaceful-natured, the Egyptian revolution left hundreds dead and thousands injured from the violent clashes between security forces and protesters. As pressure grew on his government, Mubarak, whose rule had lasted for three decades, declared in his final speech: “I wasn’t intending to run for a new term of presidency”. On 11 February, following weeks of popular protest, Mubarak’s resignation was announced. Three decades of dictatorship ended and a real sense of victory inspired the pro-democracy Egyptians who participated in the revolution and called for freedom, justice, and a responsive non-military government.

The north African state of Libya was not immune to the anti-tyranny movements in the region, due to its geographical location between the revolutionary states of Tunisia and Egypt and its four-decades dictatorship of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. On 15 February 2011, protests started to take place across the Libyan streets and turned later into an armed conflict as a result of clashes with security forces that fired on crowds of protestors. The movement escalated into a rebellion that spread across the country between forces loyal to Gaddafi and those seeking to oust his government. In a reaction to the popular calls for him to step down, and addressing pro-democracy activists and rebels, Gaddafi stated: “If I was an official president, I would throw my resignation letter in your faces. I’m a rebel myself, and I will never give up”. The action of the United Nations Security Council has played a remarkable role in weakening the rule of Gaddafi, and the Libyan National Transitional Council was established, aiming at achieving the aspirations of the Libyan people for democratic change. After eight months of fighting, while tens of thousands of Libyans fell as victims of the bloody clashes, Gaddafi was captured and killed on 20 October by Libyan rebels during his attempt to escape from the city of Sirte and the National Transitional Council declared the liberation of Libya.

Over four decades, scenes of persecution and repression were the most appropriate images concerning Syria. The ruling family of Assad has turned the republican concept into a notion of private property in Syria; tyranny has reached its highest levels, corruption began eating away at the country’s institutions, activists and oppositionists have faced detention and all kinds of inhuman acts, and freedom of speech was not looming even in the dreams of Syrian citizens. On 15 March 2011, Syrians made their decision to put an end to the growing suffering; a peaceful revolution was declared against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. The ongoing anti-dictatorship movement has been described as “unprecedented” due to the level of sacrifice the Syrian people are making daily. The demands of protesters include for President Assad to step down, for the ruling Baath Party to allow other political parties to operate, for equal rights for the Kurdish people, and for broad political freedom such as freedom of press and speech.

Following expectations, the Syrian authorities started to use its Iron Fist to face the peaceful movement; consequently, thousands of Syrians were killed, tens of thousands were detained and tortured, and still the regime’s brutal crackdown is trying to put an end for the crisis – but in vain, because the will of the people is the only permanent reality.

As a matter of fact, dictators survive by using ‘divide and rule’ tactics to stoke the fears of minorities of a civil war, claiming that their rule is a necessity to preserve civil peace. The possibility of a “civil war” in Syria is repeatedly mentioned by the Assad regime in an attempt to threaten Syrian society and the International Community with total instability in the country if this regime steps down. Syrian society, including a historical variety of ethnic and religious groups, has shown over months of revolution a unique national spirit of unity. By sharing in the pain and sighs of freedom, all the fake divisions created by the regime over decades have vanished, and the Syrians have sent a clear message to the world – that the only threat to Syria is from the current tyrannical regime, and that the post-Assad era will allow the birth of a new Syria: an equal state for Arabs, Kurds, Christians, and Muslims; a country of fairness, pluralism, and democracy.

One of the main concerns of the International Community concerning the changes and developments in the Middle East is the unachieved goals of the pro-democracy movements. The first step towards a real democracy is to oust dictatorship and tyranny and so instability is an unavoidable stage. Besides this there are the difficulties these societies will face in cleaning their countries from all kinds of damaging influences from the past decades of persecution and oppression. Only then will the stories of the liberation movements of the Middle East be mentioned and detailed in the books of the coming generations, to praise and appreciate the courage and sacrifice of their fathers and forefathers.

Adib Abdulmajid is a Syria Kurdish journalist based in exile in the Netherlands. He is a member of the Association of Foreign Journalists and Writers in the Netherlands and a blogger for multiple websites in English, Dutch, and Arabic.

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